Recipe: Arroz con Pollo

Another non-Asian recipe! I haven’t posted one in a long time. Arroz con pollo (pronounced: “ah-rroth kohn poy-yoh” or “ah-rros kohn poy-yoh” and the rr is rolled, literally: “rice with chicken”) is a Spanish recipe popular in Spain and all of Latin America. It consists of rice (arroz) and chicken (pollo), and the seasoning varies depending on where it’s made. The history of this dish probably dates back to when the Muslim people migrated to Spain, bringing their rice and cooking methods.

Anyways, this recipe is mostly based on the Spanish version of arroz con pollo. The Spanish one uses Calasparra rice, a variety of very short-grain rice that absorbs a lot of water but remains seperate grains and does not stick like Japanese rice. The seasonings include Pimentón de la Vera, which is Spanish smoked sweet paprika, as well as saffron, extra virgin olive oil, white wine, and a sautéed mixture of onion, garlic, and tomatoes. It’s quite easy to make at home and it’s very tasty.

Arroz con Pollo is similar to Arroz en Paella a la Valenciana. However, there are some differences. Paella a la Valenciana uses snails and rabbits in addition to chicken. Also, it uses local varieties of beans. And Paella a la Valenciana should be cooked over a wood fire. Arroz con Pollo is easier to make at a regular home overseas.

The authentic way of making Arroz con Pollo in Spain is very shocking if you are used to cooking rice the Asian way. First, the rice isn’t washed! Second, the rice is cooked without a lid! Third, the rice is cooked al dente! In Asia, rice is always washed, cooked with a tight lid, and fully cooked without any hardness.

My recipe is not the authentic one from Spain though. I don’t use Calasparra rice since I can’t get it here easily (and if I can get it, it costs way too much). So I use other types of rice. Also, I substituted regular smoked paprika for the real pimentón de la Vera. Which probably sounds terrible to some Spanish people, sorry! If you can get the real pimentón, use it! Next, I cooked it with the lid on since it’s much easier for me. I decreased the water too because of this. Lastly, I used boneless chicken thighs because I don’t like the bone-in ones.

This recipe is adapted from La Tienda. For the more authentic recipe, click the link for La Tienda. They also sell all the authentic ingredients online (for extremely high prices).

Ingredients:
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 head garlic, finely minced
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2 tomatoes, finely chopped or grated
salt
ground black pepper
1 tsp pimentón de la Vera or smoked paprika, plus a little more to season the chicken
1 large pinch saffron threads
4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups (500 ml) rice (not 180 ml rice cooker cups but real 240-250 ml measuring cups)
1/2 cup dry white wine
about 2 cups chicken broth or water + 2 tsp chicken bouillon powder/cubes/paste (amount depends on type of rice)
1/2 to 3/4 cup green peas (optional, probably not authentic)

Directions:
1. Mix chicken with some salt, pepper, and pimentón.
2. Heat a pan and add 4 tbsp olive oil.
3. Add chicken and spread in one layer and brown.
4. Then brown the other side.
5. Take the chicken out to a plate. Try to leave as much oil as possible in the pan.
6. Add 2 tbsp more oil to the pan, but if you think it’s too much, you can skip this extra oil.
7. Add garlic and onion and bell pepper if using. Sauté 5 minutes until soft and translucent.
8. Add tomatoes and stir. Cook until reduced and the oil separates on the sides (it’s sort of hard to see this, basically when there is very little liquid left).
9. Add the rice and stir well for a couple minutes.
10. Pour in the wine, water or broth, chicken bouillon powder/cubes/paste if using water, pimentón, saffron, black pepper, and salt (use less salt if using chicken bouillon powder/cubes). Stir well until combined, bringing to a boil.
11. Add chicken evenly on top and sprinkle peas if using. Bury the chicken and peas into the rice.
12. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
13. Uncover and taste the rice. If it is still hard and not much liquid left in the pan, add more water or broth. Then cover and cook another 10 minutes.
14. Once it is fully cooked, serve! You can garnish with lemon wedges if you like. Take the pan to the table and serve yourself. Sprinkle lemon juice on top if you desire.
15. Enjoy!! 🙂

At the bottom of the pan is extremely delicious, burnt crispy rice called socarrat in Spanish! Try to scrape it off to enjoy! It’s amazing, especially if you love crispy food!

   
 

Recipe: Zongzi with Red Bean Paste(豆沙粽子)

In this recipe, you will learn how to make red bean paste (豆沙 dou sha – “doh shah”, literally “bean sand”), a common filling for many Chinese sweets I will be featuring in the future! And of course also how to make zongzi, the most common food eaten during the Duanwu Festival!

Please see this post I wrote yesterday, in order to understand a lot more about zongzi and the Duanwu Festival! 🙂

My recipes are adapted from Omnivore’s Cookbook, so please see their blog for more recipes! 🙂

First, the recipe for the red bean paste. This is really quite easy to make in a pressure cooker.

Ingredients:
200 grams dried red beans or azuki beans
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (I used 3/4, so it was sweet, but the finished zongzi very only mildly sweet. If you like it sweeter, use 1 cup instead. My family prefers most desserts less sweet.)
2 tbsp butter (optional)
water

Directions:

1. Wash the red beans and soak in cold water overnight. If you do not have time to soak, that’s fine, just see intructions below.

2. Drain beans and add 3 cups water with the beans to a pressure cooker. Cover and put over high heat, bring to pressure (it will become really loud). Then lower the heat to medium and cook for 20-30 minutes, depending on how strong your pressure cooker is. I cooked 20 minutes, and they were soft enough to mash with finger, but still a bit hard for red bean paste. Next time I will try 30 minutes. After time is up, turn off the heat and leave until the pressure is released. Basically you cannot hear any noise from the pressure cooker at all anymore. To check, stand far away as possible and use a chopstick to slightly move the pressure whistle. If only a tiny amount or no amount of steam and noise come out, it is ready. If a tiny amount remains, keep pushing the whistle gently to release all the steam. Be very careful! Finally open the cooker and take out a bean to mash with your finger. Make sure it is cool before mashing! If it mashes and is soft, it is ready. If not, you could simmer it longer or even pressure cook it longer.

If you didn’t soak the beans, you should cook longer, probably over 30 minutes.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you must simmer them in a pot until soft and mashable. This will take over an hour. Add to a pot with water and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Check the beans after an hour of simmering and if not soft, continue simmering. Also, check every 15 minutes or so to make sure the water did not evaporate. Add more water so water covers the red beans.

3. After cooking, stir the beans. Make sure there is still water. It should be at least the height of the beans. If there is too much water, that’s okay, as we will be boiling it so the water will evaporate. Now, you have two choices, chunky red bean paste or smooth. Chunky is a lot easier and you don’t have to clean a blender. But some people like smooth, so you can do that too.

First, the instructions for chunky red bean paste.

4. Use a spatula to mash the beans against the side of the pot. They don’t have to be totally mashed yet, but still mash them.

5. Put over medium high heat and bring to a boil, constantly stirring. Stirring will also mash the beans.

6. Add the sugar and stir. Add butter now if using. As sugar melts, there will be more liquid. Keep stirring.

7. Now stir just a couple minutes until it’s thick enough. To check, use the spatula and scrape the bottom. This will separate the red bean paste. Count to 2 seconds. If the line has disappeared before 2 seconds, it is not ready. If it disappears at 2 seconds, it is ready.

8. Turn off the heat immediately and scrape out into a bowl or container. As it cools, it quickly becomes firmer. Let cool. When it has cooled mostly, you can cover it and store in the fridge.

Now, for the smooth paste.

4. Add beans and liquid to a blender. Blend until very smooth.

5. Now heat a pan, nonstick is obviously best, and add the pureed beans, sugar, and butter. Butter isn’t optional for the smooth paste even though it’s optional for the chunky one.

6. Stir well so everything combines. The sugar will make the paste much thinner as it melts.

7. This step is called stir-frying the red bean paste. Stir-fry over medium to medium-high heat constantly stirring until it is thick enough. It will become one mass when it’s thick.

8. (same as step 8 for the chunky one) Turn off the heat immediately and scrape out into a bowl or container. As it cools, it quickly becomes firmer. Let cool. When it has cooled mostly, you can cover it and store in the fridge.

Now, we have the recipe for zongzi!

This recipe makes about 12 zongzi. I doubled it and cooked it in 2 batches.

Ingredients:
400 grams white glutinous rice
1/2 batch of the red bean paste made above
12 large (8 cm+ width) zongzi leaves like I used, or 24 smaller ones, or 36 extremely small ones like the ones the Omnivore’s Cookbook used
water

Directions:

1. Put glutinous rice in a bowl, add water to cover by a couple inches, stir well with your hand in a circular motion until the water is opaque (white and not see-through). Drain into a larger bowl and use it to water your garden or wash your pots after cooking. You can repeat this one more time if you like. Don’t wash until it’s clear. That’ll never ever ever ever ever happen with glutinous rice 🙂

2. Cover glutinous rice with water by a couple inches. Soak overnight.

3. Meanwhile, if they are dried, soak the zongzi leaves overnight also. It might be hard to soak since the large ones are extremely large. I had to soften them a little, then fold in half to soak. This could cause ripping though, so be careful. Maybe it’s okay if you don’t soak too. See the next step.

4. The next day, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the zongzi leaves. Bring back to a boil. If dried, boil 5 minutes. If you forgot to soak, maybe 10 minutes. If fresh, 2 minutes should be enough.

5. Take out the leaves to a large plate and let cool.

6. Now, please see the Omnivore’s Cookbook recipe for the video on how to wrap zongzi. If you have any questions, you can comment below.

7. Once all wrapped, take out your pressure cooker and put all the zongzi in. Add water to cover all the zongzi. If your cooker is too small, you may need multiple batches. Do not fill your cooker more than 2/3 because it might be dangerous if too much is inside. Now cover and put over high heat, bring to pressure (very loud). Then lower heat to medium and cook 20-30 minutes. After time is up, turn off the heat and leave until the pressure is released. Basically you cannot hear any noise from the pressure cooker at all anymore. To check, stand far away as possible and use a chopstick to slightly move the pressure whistle. If only a tiny amount or no amount of steam and noise come out, it is ready. If a tiny amount remains, keep pushing the whistle gently to release all the steam. Be very careful! Finally open the cooker and see the zongzi! Yay! Take out all the zongzi and you can start eating!

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it is recommended to add zongzi to a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 3 hours. However, 25 min in the pressure cooker was fine for me as it made the rice into a cake. And the red beans could be cooked in 1 hour over the stove, 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. So maybe it does not need all the 3 hours to cook. I haven’t tried the non-pressure cooker method though, so I don’t really know the correct cooking time.

To eat zongzi, unwrap carefully and eat! You can sprinkle with sugar or honey if you want it more sweet. Don’t eat the leaf, hehe. As mentioned in my last post, Chinese joke is that a foreigner said “Zongzi are really tasty! But the outer leaf gets stuck in your teeth. Thankfully, they provide floss for you too!” (If you don’t get it, the floss is the string used to tie the zongzi.) LOL

Enjoy eating zongzi! Have a healthy Duanwu Festival!

   
 

My zongzi-wrapping isn’t the best, hehe. I chose the 3 best ones I made. The inside of the zongzi does not look as beautiful in pictures, so I did not upload any of them 🙂 

Information: Duanwu Festival (端午节) and Zongzi (粽子)

Wishing everyone a healthy Duanwu Festival!

Today is the Duanwu Festival (端午节, Mandarin: duan wu jie, “dwuhn woo dzyeh”, Cantonese: duen ng jit. “dwehn-ng dzeet”, literally “beginning 7th earthly branch holiday”) which is one of the most famous Chinese festivals. It takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. In China, there are many festivals. Every festival is very interesting and has its own customs. The most popular custom of each festival is… eating! Each holiday is associated with a food. Duanwu Festival is associated with zongzi (粽子 zong zi, “dzohng dzz”, zong has no meaning other than the food, and zi is a suffix). Zongzi are made from glutinous rice (which is gluten-free) wrapped in leaves and cooked. They can be compared to tamales and are sometimes called Chinese tamales. Some people translate them as “rice dumpling”, which I do not prefer. The Chinese have dozens of foods that can be translated as “rice dumplings”, so if one says “rice dumplings” I do not know which rice dumpling they are talking about!

There are many legends about the origin of Duanwu Festival. I will list the many different legends below.

First, the most popular is about the poet and minister Qu Yuan (屈原 pronounced “tshee ywehn” in Mandarin) who lived during the Warring States period of Chinese history about 2300 years ago. He was the minister of the State of Chu (楚国 chu guo, pronounced “choo gwuh”). But when the king decided to ally with the neighboring State of Qin, (秦国 qin guo, pronounced ‘tseen gwuh”) he was against it because he knew it wasn’t a good idea. As a result, the king banished him for treason and he became a poet. He wrote many famous poems. 28 years later, Qin captured the capital of Chu. In despair, Qu Yuan jumped into the Miluo River (汨罗江 mi luo jiang, “mee lwuh dzyahng”) in present-day Jiangxi province (江西 “dzyahng see”). (If you’re wondering, the river is formed from the joining of the Mi River and Luo River. They are tributaries of the Yangtse River.) The legend is that the people went out in boats to find his body, and they weren’t successful, so they threw rice into the river to feed the fish so that they wouldn’t eat his body. The boat search is supposedly the origin of the Dragon Boat racing. On Duanwu Festival, around China, people race or watch a race of a traditional boat called the Dragon Boat (龙舟 long zhou, “lohng djoh”), which is a long boat powered by paddling. They are decorated with a dragon head at one end and a dragon tail at the other.

The second variation of the story is about the minister Wu Zixu (伍子胥 “woo dzz see”) who lived 2500 years ago and was a minister of the State of Wu (吴国 wu guo, “woo gwuh”). He warned the king about the State of Yue (yue guo 越国 “yweh gwuh”), but the king did not listen. The king forced him to commit suicide. 10 years later, Yue actually conquered Wu’s capital. Wu Zixu’s death is commemorated in parts of Jiangxi province today where the State of Wu once stood.

The third story is different (not really a variation). It is about a girl named Cao E (曹娥 “tsall uh”). Her father fell into the river during the Duanwu Festival. She swam in the river to try to find his body but she drowned too. The river was renamed the Cao E River and is one of the major rivers in Zhejiang province. Her death is commemorated in parts of Zhejiang Province today.

Most people outside the areas of Jiangxi and Zhejiang where the 2nd and 3rd stories are known, only know about the 1st one. I didn’t know about the other stories until I checked Wikipedia!

Everyone in China knows the 1st story though. But many ABCs (American-Born-Chinese) don’t. Most just know that we eat zongzi, hehe. It’s good to know the origin of the holiday though! 🙂

Due to these stories, it is also best to wish people a healthy Duan Wu Festival over a happy one, as the day commemorates the unfortunate deaths of these 3 people, especially Qu Yuan (since his story is the most well-known).

There are many theories about the origin of Duanwu Festival and how it relates to the 3 legends. According to Wikipedia, most research shows that both the Qu Yuan and Wu Zixu stories were combined with an already preexisting holiday. Some people think the preexisting holiday had to do with dragon worship because of the dragon boats. They believe that the zongzi were an offering to the dragons. Others believe that it originated as a festival for the harvest of winter wheat (planted in winter and harvested in summer).

Duanwu Festival means “The Beginning of the Seventh Earthly Branch Festival”. In Ancient China, the days were organized into cycles of 12 and each day had the name of an earthly branch. The seventh is called “wu”. It originally took place on the 7th earthly branch in the 5th month. It now takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month. It is also sometimes called Duanyang Festival (端阳节) which means “The Beginning of Yang Festival”. Yang as in the Yin and Yang of Chinese philosophy. Another name is Dragon Boat Festival (龙舟节 or 龙船节) named because of the dragon boat racing. This is the most popular to translate into other languages because it requires no confusing explanations of the 7th earthly branch. As a result, it is the official English name. In Singapore, the Malay is Pesta Parahu Naga which has the name meaning. The Tamil name is நாகக் கப்பல் பந்தயம் (nākak kappal pantayam) which also has the same meaning.

In Hokkien (a dialect of Southern Min spoken in Fujian Province, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia) the festival is also called the Double Fifth Festival (go goeh cheh), Fifth Month Festival, and Fifth Day Festival since it takes place on 5-5. It is also called the Pork Zong Festival (肉粽节 bah chang cheh), Pork Zong or Bah Chang being the Hokkien name for Zongzi.

During the Duanwu Festival, the most common activities are eating zongzi, drinking realgar wine, and watching or doing dragon boat races. Realgar wine (雄黄酒 xiong huang jiu, “syohng hwahng dzyoh”, literally masculine yellow wine) is made from dissolving realgar, a toxic arsenic compound, in Chinese yellow rice wine. Since it’s poisonous, less people drink this now. In fact, I have never even seen it before, since it might be illegal in the USA. The activities are believed to ward off evil and disease.

The Duanwu Festival spread to Vietnam, Korea, and Japan due to Chinese influence in the past. In Vietnam, it is called Tết Đoan Ngọ and the customs are similar and they eat bánh tro, their version of zongzi. In Korea, it’s called Dano (단오) (dan-o, not da-no) and it’s a major holiday too, although the customs are different and I don’t believe they eat zongzi. Lastly, in Japan, it was originally called Tango no Sekku (端午の節句) and the customs changed dramatically! It became a festival celebrating boys, like how their Hinamatsuri celebrated girls. When Japan modernized, the holiday was moved to May 5 in the Gregorian calendar and renamed Kodomo ni Hi (こどもの日) which means Children’s Day. It now celebrates both boys and girls. There are still zongzi in Japan, probably because of the Chinese immigrants. In Okinawa, Duanwu Festival is celebrated in a more Chinese way, as they also have dragon boat racing called hārī.

According to Wikipedia, when the Communists took over China, Duanwu Festival ceased to be celebrated since it was thought of an old tradition and old = bad for the communists. But in 2005, the government started recognizing Duanwu Festival. It has been a public holiday since 2008. However, contrary to this statement, my mom told me that everyone always celebrated Duanwu Festival when she was a child, even around the time of the Cultural Revolution. At least there were always zongzi and dragon boat races. And everyone in China knows the story of Qu Yuan’s death and the Duan Wu Festival. So I’m not sure if Wikipedia’s statement is really true.

More about Zongzi now! In Mandarin, it is zong zi (“dzohng dzz”). In Cantonese, it is zung zi (“dzoong dzee”). It can also just be called zung. In Hokkien, it is bah chang (“bahk chahng”) which means meat zong. Since many Hokkien speakers migrated to Southeast Asia, the Southeast Asian names are very similar to it. Zongzi has so many variations throughout China and Southeast Asia.

The rice used to make zongzi is glutinous rice, also called sticky rice. It’s called nuo mi in Mandarin and lo mai in Cantonese. The English names are extremely confusing since many people believe it has gluten (which it does not) or that it is the same as Japanese rice, which Americans call sticky rice. What makes it more confusing is that there are 2 very different kinds, long grain and short grain. Regular rice also has 2 kinds and these could be confused for each other! Now, to tell the difference. When raw, glutinous rice is white and opaque, no light passing through. When soaked, it is still opaque. When cooked, it is translucent (some light passes through). Regular rice is translucent when raw. When soaked, it turns opaque, and when cooked, it is opaque.

Long grain glutinous rice is cooked by soaking and steaming. Short grain glutinous rice is cooked like regular rice. Long grain glutinous rice is usually imported from Thailand. Short grain glutinous rice is imported from Korea, Japan, or grown by Japanese farmers in California. Short grain glutinous rice is often called mochi rice or sweet rice by Japanese and Koreans. Long grain glutinous rice is called glutinous rice or sticky rice by Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Chinese people use both long and short grain. I used long grain today even though it is boiled but it still works since zongzi texture is different from regular cooked glutinous rice. The rice sticks together to form a sticky and chewy cake. You can also use short grain sticky rice for this recipe. Different types of rice will create different textures.

Sweet fillings like red bean paste are more popular for zongzi in Northern China. Savory fillings are more popular in Southern China. China’s different regions also shape zongzi differently. Sometimes they are tetrahedron-shaped (4 sides, all triangles) and other times, cone-shaped. It is said the tetrahedrons are found in the North and cones in the South. However, some Southern recipes I have seen show the tetrahedron zongzi, so it’s not completely that way. Meanwhile, I have never seen cone-shaped Northern zongzi though. Some zongzi are even shaped like rectangular pouches, somewhat like tamales.

Zongzi are made using many different types of leaves. Usually reed or bamboo leaves. My package in Chinese says something like “top quality zongzi leaves”. This does not show the type of leaves though. In English, it is labeled “BAMBOO LEAVES”, but “INGREDIENTS: REED”. XD Which leaf is it? Anyways, leaves add a unique fragrance and taste to the glutinous rice essential to Zongzi. Different leaves have different flavors, but I can’t tell what is reed and what is bamboo since I’ve never seen clear labeling on a zongzi leaf package. Zongzi are tied with either string or long strips of reed leaves. String is easier to use so I recommend it. Some packages of zongzi leaves come with thin strips of the leaves for tying while others don’t. I used string since my didn’t come with the strips.

The leaves are not eaten (may seem obvious). There’s a Chinese joke that a foreigner unacquainted with zongzi tried it and said to a Chinese person, “Zongzi are so tasty! But the outer leaf gets stuck in your teeth! Thankfully, they provide floss for you.” (If you don’t get it, the floss is the string used to tie the zongzi!)

Zongzi are sometimes boiled and sometimes steamed. The steamed ones have the glutinous rice precooked by stir-frying before filling. Also, the cooking time varies a lot. It takes a really long time though. I use a pressure cooker, making the process so much easier and faster but many people are afraid of pressure cookers. You need a very large pot to make the zongzi, so a tiny pressure cooker won’t work either. I use a very old one brought to the US from China by my grandma. Electric pressure cookers are now very easy to use, not nearly as loud, and less dangerous. If you want one, there are many on Amazon. Some of them also double as slow cookers, rice cookers, etc. and also have very good reviews. However, I do not have one right now so I cannot review it.

There are many variations of fillings of zongzi. Here are some below. Some zongzi are not even filled! These are usually served with sugar sprinkled on top.

Cantonese zongzi are filled with glutinous rice, peanuts, mung beans, marinated pork belly, shiitake mushrooms, salted duck egg yolks, Chinese sausages, dried shrimp, and sometimes other ingredients. The ingredients can vary though. Taiwanese zongzi  and other zongzi from the South are similar to Cantonese zongzi in terms of fillings. Some Taiwanese zongzi have the savory ingredients (sausage, pork, dried mushrooms and shrimp) stir-fried together though, which is a bit different from Cantonese zongzi. Both use soy sauce and other flavorings as seasoning. Taiwanese version uses fried shallots in the filling often though.

The Nyonya people (descendants of Chinese people originally from Fujian living in Malaysia) have a unique type of zongzi. They use a natural beautiful blue food coloring from the blue butterfly pea flower to dye the rice partially blue. The filling is sweet-savory as it includes finely chopped candied winter melon! And lastly a pandan leaf is added inside the zongzi to give a unique fragrance. They are called “Nyonya chang” in Malaysia from the Hokkien pronounciation of “zong”.

Some zongzi have glutinous rice mixed with potassium carbonate solution (highly basic) which makes the rice have a golden color. They are called 碱水粽 (jian shui zong, “dzyehn shway dzohng”, meaning “alkali water zong”). These can have no filling at all (sprinkled with sugar before eating). They can also be filled with red bean paste. I did not make these today.

Most Chinese people buy zongzi at the store. They cost a lot at the store. However, some Chinese make zongzi at home. Making zongzi at home is more affordable but time-consuming and quite challenging and confusing to wrap the first time, until you get the hang of it. It is definitely not so easy as some online recipes made by skilled zongzi wrappers show, hehe. They also take several hours to boil, but I used a pressure cooker, making them faster. i also used a pressure cooker to make red bean paste, which is very easy.

For the zongzi I made today, I made them filled with red bean paste and I did not use potassium carbonate solution. Sweet zongzi are easier to make as they don’t need so much prep work and have only 2 fillings (glutinous rice and red bean paste), unlike savory ones with 10 fillings! They were very tasty and quite fun to make. I made almost 30, in 2 batches in the pressure cooker!

Look forward to the recipe, which I will upload soon! 😀

I hope everyone has a healthy Duanwu Festival!

Recipe: Yellow Curry / Kaeng Kari (แกงกะหรี่)

“Yellow Curry” is one of the popular Thai foods in the USA. In Thai, it is called แกงกะหรี่ (Kaeng Kari, pronounced “gkehng gkah-dee”). It contains chicken, potatoes, and onions, and is served with cooked jasmine rice, along with cucumbers and shallots lightly pickled in sweetened vinegar.

The English translation of a lot of Thai dishes causes great confusion. The translation that causes the greatest confusion is Kaeng Kari to Yellow Curry. In Thai, there are two types of soups. Unlike Western soups, they are served with rice as a main course. Some Thai people therefore do not like to translate them as soups. However I believe they should count as soup since a soup is a dish with a liquid. And if they must not call Thai soups as “soups”, then they must also translate Chinese tang, Korean guk, Japanese shiru, etc. all not as “soup”, since they are all not served at the start of a meal either. Anyway, there are two types in Thai cuisine. “Tom” is made from simmering whole pieces of Thai herbs in water/stock, etc. to infuse flavor. This includes Tom Yum (no coconut milk) and Tom Kha (contains coconut milk). The other type of soup is “Kaeng”, made from cooking a paste of Thai herbs and spices in water or coconut milk. Coconut milk based Kaeng includes Kaeng Kua, Kaeng However, since Thai restaurants translated “Tom” as soup already, they translated “Kaeng” as “curry”. Now, this name is highly inappropriate for so many reasons. First, what was the original meaning of curry? The British invented the word curry to describe all Indian food, especially the dishes with a sauce. Well then, they invented a spice blend called curry powder! And from then on, any dish containing curry powder became called a curry. Which is fine this way. The Japanese karē (see my recipe), the Korean kare, the Vietnamese cari, the Malaysian kari, all contain curry powder, and are therefore curries. But… Thai Kaeng do not contain curry powder. Only some people add it to Kaeng Kari. That’s why it’s called Kaeng Kari!! So therefore calling all Kaeng as “curry” is not appropriate at all. Only Kaeng Kari can possibly be called a “curry”. The terrible translation of Kaeng into “curry” causes further problems when translating Kaeng Kari. Calling the dish “curry curry” would sound quite strange. So they called it “yellow curry instead”! Why? Well, they already translated Kaeng Phet into “Red Curry”, and Kaeng Khiao Wan into “Green Curry”, so why not, it’s yellow! However, in Thailand there is a Kaeng called “Kaeng Lueang”, which literally means… “Yellow Curry”. So now that they call Kaeng Kari as “Yellow Curry”, what about “Kaeng Lueang”? Well, they don’t really care. Because Kaeng Lueang is not served in Thai restaurants in the USA anyways. If you’re wondering, Kaeng Lueang, along with Kaeng Som and Kaeng Pla, are some of the Kaeng that do not use coconut milk. In Southern Thailand, it’s called Kaeng Som, but in Central Thailand they already have a dish called Kaeng Som. (Som means sour and the Kaeng is sour from tamarind or lime juice.) The Central version is red and the Southern version is yellow from Turmeric. So the Central Thai decided to call the Southern Kaeng Som as “Kaeng Lueang”. Anyways, when they arrive in USA, and want “Yellow Curry”, they will expect Kaeng Lueang, but they get… Kaeng Kari instead. If you’re wondering, the Kaeng Lueang is usually translated as “Sour Yellow Curry” or “Southern Yellow Curry” or “Southern Sour Curry”, etc.

So, that was a long paragraph describing the inappropriateness of the name Yellow Curry. From now on I will call it Kaeng Kari. (I called it the American name at the beginning to not confuse people.)

Okay, so what makes Kaeng Kari different from Kaeng Phet and Kaeng Khiao Wan? All three use coconut milk inside. The difference in the soup itself is that the only vegetables used are potato and onion. You CANNOT add other vegetables and still call it Kaeng Kari. Actually I sometimes add carrot for color, like the “curry” in other countries, but not sure if Thai people will be happy about that fact. Similarly, potatoes and onions and carrots DO NOT belong in Kaeng Phet and Kaeng Khiao Wan. The other difference is the curry paste. Like Kaeng Phet, Kaeng Kari uses dry red chilies. It also has just about all of the other ingredients in Kaeng Phet/Khiao Wan. However, Kaeng Kari paste has less dry red chilies and is therefore less spicy. It also contains extra spices, including turmeric and some people add curry powder. Some people also add a few extra herbs.

In this recipe, you need a few ingredients. First, you need Kaeng Kari paste. I strongly recommend the Maesri brand “Karee Curry Paste” in a small can. You will use the whole can so it’s perfect for one time use. You can also use the Mae Ploy “Yellow Curry Paste” in a large container. The problem with Mae Ploy is that the container is super large. And it is also EXTREMELY spicy. Their Kaeng Kari paste is standable. But their Kaeng Phet and Kaeng Khiao Wan pastes are SO SPICY, that I cannot even eat a bowl of the finished soup. They are also extremely salty! It tastes like you added a whole salt shaker into the soup. But some people like it because it isn’t canned. Personally I think canning does not make the flavor much worse than the Mae Ploy. Both brands are very, very authentic. They are also very tasty (but Mae Ploy is too salty and spicy). So I recommend using Maesri as it is not too salty and spicy, and is in a convenient-sized package. Second, you need coconut milk. In making Thai Kaeng, you must saute the thick part of the coconut milk that floats to the top with the Kaeng paste until the oil separates. Chaokoh used to be a great brand, but now I cannot get the oil to separate at all, even after boiling half an hour. Mae Ploy’s coconut oil DID separate after a while, when I tried about a year ago. But it costs much more, so I don’t use it regularly. Aroy D is the brand with no preservatives and I haven’t tried it with making Kaeng yet. Do not use any other brand because if it is Asian, it is not good quality, and if it is non-Asian, it costs too much and may contain something like guar gum, which prevents it from separating layers. And NEVER buy “lite” coconut milk, which is just coconut milk diluted with water. Don’t worry because coconut fat is healthy even if it is saturated, as shown by recent scientific studies. Anyways, you may use Chaokoh if it doesn’t matter that the oil separates. But most authentic Kaeng should have oil floating on top. For a shortcut, you may saute the paste in a tbsp of coconut oil for a couple minutes before adding the coconut milk. This is not traditional, but does taste wonderful, hehe. So do it if you like! Next, you need seasonings, Thai fish sauce and palm sugar. Preferably, don’t use Three Crabs, which is not Thai fish sauce. Use the much cheaper Tiparos brand (used in the majority of Thai homes and still very good) or the slightly better quality, Tra Chang brand (harder to find). Palm sugar may be hard to find so you may substitute white sugar in this recipe.

Today I made a pescetarian version with tofu, which is not traditional. You may use chicken thighs if you wish. Vegetarians/vegans cannot eat Thai Kaeng as it has kapi inside the paste, made from krill. However you can make the paste yourself. I can make a recipe later.

Note: You can use 1 inch cubes instead of 1.5 inch. I prefer smaller, but 1.5 is more traditional.

Adapted from Serious Eats, Ajat Recipe adapted from both Serious Eats and the High Heel Gourmet

Ingredients:

1 can Maesri “karee curry paste”, if using Mae Ploy, use about 3 tbsp (depending on your preference, it may be too salty)

1 can coconut milk (14 oz), DO NOT shake!!

1 lb chicken thighs, cut into 1.5 inch cubes, or substitute with 1 package tofu (about 14-16 oz), cut into about 1.25 inch cubes since tofu doesn’t shrink

1 lb potatoes, cut into 1.5 inch cubes

NOT traditional: some carrots, cut into pieces slightly smaller than potatoes

1 onion, cut into wedges (traditional) or cubes (my preference)

palm sugar or white sugar (to taste and optional, about 1/2 tbsp or so if using)

fish sauce to taste (don’t add too much or it might be too salty, I use about 1/2 tbsp)

water

serve with: cooked white jasmine rice, ajat (cucumber and shallot lightly pickled sweet and sour) is optional but always served in Thailand, see recipe below the main recipe

Directions:

1. Prepare ajat first, if using. Then wash and start cooking the rice. Once started, you can start making the Kaeng Kari.

2. Traditionally: Open the unshaken can of coconut milk. Add the thick part floating on top to the pot with the Kaeng Kari paste. Reserve the rest of the coconut milk. Heat the pot, using a spatula to break up the paste and combine well with the coconut milk. Stir and cook until the coconut oil seprates and floats on top. However, this takes a while and it never happens when I use Chaokoh brand. So see the non-traditional way that is faster and easier.

2. Non-traditionally: Heat a pot with 1 tbsp coconut oil. Add the Kaeng Kari Paste and use the spatula to distribute evenly through the oil and cook a couple minutes as it becomes fragrant. Then carefully (it may splatter if oil is too hot) add the thick part of the coconut milk floating on top and stir well to combine.

3. Add the potato, onion, non-traditional carrot if using, chicken or tofu, rest of coconut milk, and water to cover the ingredients. Add fish sauce and sugar. You can also add after boiling to taste it. Then bring to a boil. Stir after boiling and adjust with fish sauce and sugar to taste.

4. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the potato is soft. Check to see if it is soft (taste it, it will be hot though!). Also adjust to your taste with fish sauce and sugar.

5. Serve! I ladle the soup into individual bowls, and serve rice on plates. Also serve with ajat. Then use a spoon to scoop some of the soup and ingredients from the bowl onto the rice and eat with a spoon and fork like Thai people. Eat ajat to refresh between some bites. Thai people DO NOT EVER eat Thai cuisine with chopsticks! They eat stir-fried rice noodles in a very interesting way with the spoon! Usually the fork cuts and the spoon is used to feed. You do not put the fork into the mouth, only into the spoon. Thai people also do not use knives at the table. They used to use hands like Indians and most Southeast Asians. But with Western influence, they switched to spoon and fork.

Ajat Recipe:

4 Persian cucumbers, sliced thinly into full, half, or quarter moons

1 shallot, halved and then sliced very thinly (I always skip shallot as I cannot stand raw onion flavor. Again not traditional)

some chilies or a jalapeno, sliced thinly (I also always skip. In Thailand the super spicy tiny chilies are used. You can use jalapeno too for less spicy. And always deseed for less spicy. In Thailand it is never deseeded, hehe. You can skip like me if you don’t like raw fresh chilies)

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (or Japanese white rice vinegar if you prefer but white vinegar is traditional)

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Put sliced cucumber, shallot, and chilies in a bowl.

2. Add the other ingredients in a small pot and heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and pour over the vegetables. You can also cool down first, then pour if you wish.

3. Stir well. Leave aside as you cook the Kaeng Kari or for about 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes so it is evenly seasoned. Then serve alongside the Kaeng Kari and rice. Ajat is always served traditionally. Today, I could not make it since I had no cucumbers 😦

Ajat is also served with Thai satay. It is very refreshing and tasty!

Enjoy! Kaeng Kari is very easy and quite quick to make when you have the canned paste ready. 🙂

  

Recipe: Sichuan-Style Vegetarian Mixed Noodles

This recipe is REALLY easy. You only need noodles and some Chinese seasonings. Cook the noodles while mixing the sauce. Then out the noodles in the sauce and mix. Eat. It is SO GOOD too. If you love noodles you will love this recipe. When you need to make something fast, make this recipe.

Adapted from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop (the book has so many tasty noodle recipes!)

Ingredients: Makes 1 Serving (this way you can multiply for however much you need)

1 serving Chinese fresh or dry flour and water noodles (You can use the fresh “Shanghai noodles” in the refrigerated section, or dried noodles, like dry “Shanghai noodles”, “Shandong noodles” sometimes called “Shandong ramen” but it’s not ramen, or other noodles that only have flour (maybe lists salt too) as an ingredient, no egg, no alkaline agent. There are many different thicknesses and widths and you can choose your favorite. If you have more time, you can make fresh noodles, which Chinese people prefer much more than premade or dry noodles. Just follow my homemade Italian pasta recipe using no eggs. Instead use water, as little as possible to form a dough, don’t add too much. About 60ml water per 125 grams flour is enough. Knead for a longer time to form a lot of gluten. And use the fettucine cutter. Actually, you can use egg noodles if you like them more, but in Sichuan, they do not use egg noodles, only flour-water noodles. My dad said, in Shandong, sometimes they add egg. You can even use soba noodles. In Sichuan they have noodles made from buckwheat flour too.)

Sauce: 1 tsp Chinese white sesame paste or tahini, 1 tsp light soy sauce, 1/4 tsp dark soy sauce, 1/2 tsp Chinkiang or Langzhong vinegar, 1/4 tsp white sugar (optional), 2 tsp Sichuan chili oil (use my recipe), 1/8 tsp ground roasted Sichuan peppercorn powder (dry roast a heaping 1/8 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, then grind in mortar) or Sichuan peppercorn oil (buy at store), half of a finely minced clove of garlic or 1/8 tsp granulated garlic (I use this because fresh garlic gives garlic breath and it takes time to cut), optionally about 1 tbsp water to thin it if too thick

1 green onion, finely chopped (optional)

1 serving of any green leafy vegetable like spinach, bok choy, or anything you like (optional if you don’t have but it is healthy and balanced to add)

a handful of mung bean sprouts (optional and adds crunchiness)

Directions:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

2. Add green vegetable and blanch 1 minute or until just cooked (only 10 seconds for spinach). Then remove and set aside. You can put in cold water or just leave it. Blanch bean sprouts for a minute too if you are using.

3. Add noodles and cook until cooked. Just taste it and it’s ready when it tastes cooked, but don’t cook too long so it doesn’t become mushy.

4. Meanwhile, mix sauce in a bowl.

5. When noodles are ready you can either drain and add directly to the bowl, or rinse until cool. For some noodles, if you add directly, it will be a starchy mess, so I recommend rinsing. Rinsing will make the noodles “cold noodles” which are popular during the summer. Some people put the noodles back in hot water after rinsing but I find this very unnecessary. Maybe you can try not rinsing but adding extra water to the sauce. Some noodles do not turn starchy though.

6. Put noodles in the bowl and mix. Top with green vegetables, bean sprouts, and green onions if using. You can also sprinkle roasted sesame seeds on top if you like. Enjoy!!

Recipe: Tofu Clay Pot(豆腐煲)

In one of my previous posts, I gave an introduction to Chinese clay pots and how to care for them. Please read it if you want to make this dish in a clay pot. Here’s a great recipe that can be made inside a clay pot! Let’s learn more about this dish before making it below.

This dish is a Cantonese dish. Cantonese people are famous for making very “clear” dishes that do not have strong flavorings but just the natural umami flavor. One great example is Seafood Tofu Clay Pot(海鲜豆腐煲 hai xian dou fu bao [in Mandarin], pronounced hai, rhymes with eye, syehn, doh, like dough, foo, like in cool, ball. literally “ocean fresh bean curd clay-pot”, and “ocean fresh” means “seafood” in Chinese.), which relies totally on the stock to season the dish. Seafood and tofu, napa cabbage and other ingredients are cooked in broth in a clay pot. It’s very typical of “clear” flavored Cantonese cuisine, and requires fresh and good ingredients. Actually, as a result, I don’t recommend making it with seafood as the only tofu version is much better here. In the USA, I can only get frozen shrimp and squid and scallops, even though I live not far from the coast of California, ugh! It’s really crazy. They always have a horrible fishy odor, and I have to remove with a salt scrub, sake soak, vinegar soak, it’s crazy! And if there is milk good to have a milk soak too. These get rid of the terrible fishy smell. Also, the seafood in this dish cooks to so rubbery when I make it. I added it at the very and end and blanched for 1 minute, perfect, then turn off the heat and the seafood stays in the hot water and becomes harder to chew than rubber! Ewwww… so it may look beautiful in the picture but imagine the seafood to be rubber. Anyways I have no idea how Cantonese people keep seafood so tender, so I’m just going to give the recipe with tofu only, hehe. You can also make a vegetarian version with konbu dashi 😀

Adapted from the seafood recipe in Grace Young’s very good Cantonese cookbook, Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen

Ingredients:

4 cups napa cabbage leaves cut to 1/4 inch thick shreds (4 cups of the shreds not the whole leaves, hehe)

1 inch ginger, finely julienned (traditionally sliced ginger is used but I prefer julienned because you can eat the julienne and it is great flavor)

2 green onions, finely julienned

some cilantro to taste, cut into 2 inch long pieces (optional if you don’t like or don’t have)

6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms (I used less because I didn’t have 8), soaked in 1/2 to 1 cup hot water, to cover, and top with a small plate to press down, soaking until soft, like 30 minutes or so, or longer, and reserve the soaking water, which is very flavorful and full of umami, and thinly slice the mushrooms, I leave the stem on because it is a waste to remove and they soften from the cooking.

1/2 cup cooked bamboo shoot from a can or package, julienned or thinly sliced (optional if you don’t have)

1 block (approx. 14-16 oz) firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1.5 cups or more chicken broth/stock (preferably homemade Chinese style, but I always drink all the chicken soup I make and not leave it for stock, hehe), or Chinese stock, or dashi, or use Better than Bouillon, or water and must use dashi powder, or a combination (I used 2.5 cups because I prefer more soup, but it is traditional to have not too much soup in this dish)

about 2 oz dried Chinese mung bean starch noodles, soaked in cold water 15 minutes and drained well

1/2 tsp salt (use only 1/4 tsp if using dashi powder)

1 tsp dashi powder (decrease salt if using) (SO GOOD, adds amazing umami to Cantonese soups! I learned this from Wantanmien’s amazing Youtube video for Salmon Head Tofu Soup, which I make often for my mom) (you shouldn’t use if you are using actual dashi, or you can decrease it, just don’t overpower)

1/4 tsp white pepper powder

2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

1. In a Chinese clay pot, put the napa cabbage evenly on the bottom. You can use a cocotte or a stainless steel pot if you don’t want to use a clay pot! But clay pot is beautiful, traditional, and inexpensive, although it is harder to care for. Please read my clay pot post for more information.

2. Sprinkle the ginger on top evenly, then julienned shiitake evenly. If using bamboo shoots, sprinkle evenly too.

3. Spread the mung bean starch noodles in an even layer.

4. Then sprinkle tofu evenly on top. You can evenly spread green onion on top now but it will not be very green later, so I recommend adding after boiling.

5. Sprinkle on top the salt, pepper, and dashi powder.

6. Pour over the shiitake soaking liquid, strained to remove small particles, and also the stock you are using.

7. Cover with the lid. Set over low heat. Then in 5 minutes, to medium-low, then medium. If your stove flame is weaker, like mine, you can start with medium low or even medium like I do. Then I stop it at medium high. Definitely do not do the highest heat with a clay pot. And don’t do medium high with a more powderful stove! If using a cocotte or other pot, just start on medium high or high depending on the pot!

8. When the soup boils, uncover and add green onion on top. Notice how the water level is higher now because the napa cabbage shrunk.

9. Now stir the contents gently to distribute if you wish. This is optional though, but try to immerse everything under the liquid unless you only added the smallest amount and it’s not possible.

10. Then cover and simmer 3-4 minutes or so over medium or low. Actually if everything is cooked well, this is optional too.

11. Uncover and put the cilantro on top evenly. Drizzle the sesame oil too.

12. Now you can cover again or just serve immediately. Enjoy the ingredients with the soup. Serve with rice and other dishes. I served tomato and egg stir-fry, which I have a recipe for and it’s very, very easy to make. You can also serve a green leaf vegetable like the several recipes I have, but it is optional in my opinion as the soup contains napa cabbage. Enjoy the clear flavor and umami of the broth!

Remember, I make it with seafood that turned to rubber, so don’t be surprised when you see the seafood in the below picture, hehe.

  

Recipe: Kaya (Southeast Asian Coconut-Pandan Egg “Jam”)

Kaya is a popular spread in Southeast Asia made with coconut milk, pandan leaves, sugar, and eggs. It’s usually translated to jam, but it’s more of a custard or curd. It is very sweet and eggy with pandan and coconut fragrances. In Malaysian and Singapore, it is commonly served in coffee shops as small sandwiches of toast with butter and kaya, called kaya toast. It’s a very tasty snack, hehe. The recipe is at the bottom of the post. It is also a topping for the Nyonya specialty dessert “pulut tai tai” made from glutinous rice naturally dyed blue with a special kind of flower (butterfly pea flower). But I will say that I do prefer fruit jams now that I have tried kaya, sorry!

Kaya is very complicated to make. Actually it uses only 4 ingredients and the process might not seem hard. But it is! And time consuming! So I probably won’t make it often.

Anyways there are different method of making kaya. First the traditional method made over a double boiler. Second the method made directly over heat. Third, the version I made today with method based from Serious Eats, where everything except eggs are cooked first, then cooled and eggs added last. This means less time reducing over heat. But I must wait an hour or so in the middle to cool the syrup so the eggs don’t scramble like crazy. I will put all the methods in detail below.

My recipe is mostly adapted from Rasa Malaysia, i am a food blog, Serious Eats, and Nyonya Cooking (video). I have also read kaya recipes of a dozen other blogs but these blogs are from which I adapted my recipe.

Ingredients:

300 ml coconut milk to 400 ml (1 can) coconut milk (I used a whole can in my method. But recipes all over the internet widely varied. You can also use “coconut cream”. But not the same as “cream of coconut”. The first is Thai and unsweetened. The second is American, sweetened, and thickened. For brand, use Aroy-D or Chaokoh or Mae Ploy. The first one is preservative-free. You can use can or carton. A small carton has 250 ml only though, and the big one has a whole liter so you need another use for it. Do not use the coconut milk that is sold like almond milk for drinking, obviously. Do not use lite coconut milk, which is just diluted coconut milk with a thickener. Also, you may use organic can from Whole Foods (not lite!) but it costs several times more than the Thai brands above, which are only about $1.)

200 grams sugar total (This is already very sweet. Some recipes called for more, like 250 grams. Others like the Serious Eats one used less. So I would say use between 150 to 250 grams.) (If using all white sugar, it will be yellow jam. Or you can caramelize the sugar like the Serious Eats or Rasa Malaysia recipes to make it brown. Otherwise, use some gula melaka, AKA dark brown palm sugar, or the coconut sugar from the health food store, or jaggery or brown sugar. I used 1/2 coconut sugar and 1/2 white sugar to get a dark brown color. You can also use 1/4 coconut/palm/brown sugar for somewhat lighter brown color.)

4 to 8 pandan leaves, each tied into a knot (Find them frozen at the Asian store. Different recipes used different amounts again.)

4 or 5 eggs (I think this is traditional. I used 4 whole eggs. This causes small scrambled eggs to appear. I will explain how to make the jam smooth. Used in Nyonya Cooking’s recipe and most other recipes I have seen.), or just yolks (makes it smoother, like the Serious Eats recipe), or half of them yolks and other half eggs (used in some recipes like i am a food blog’s recipe)

Preparation of Pandan: Some people infuse pandan leaves in the jam. I did this in the Serious Eats method. The annoying part is a lot of syrup or jam will stick to the leaves that must be removed. The other way is to blend the leaves until smooth with the coconut milk or some of the coconut milk, then strain finely and use only the liquid. My blender (Blendtec) is HUGE so this would be irritating to do. This also tints the jam green (maybe not if the brown/palm/coconut sugar is used though.) which is very beautiful in my opinion. Use either option before starting the recipes.

Preparation of Caramel, if using: This takes time and is very difficult for the beginner so I recommend using brown/palm/coconut sugar instead. Melt all or part of the sugar with an equal amount of water in a pot over low heat, then cook until brown. Don’t burn it so not too brown! Don’t stir either. It might also crystallize (really annoying) Then take off heat and VERY carefully pour in coconut milk. The sugar is at a VERY high temperature. Stir constantly to dissolve. The sugar may crystallize but it will dissolve. Now continue the recipe.

Directions:

BTW: Kaya is thick = coats the back of spatula/spoon.

1. Traditional way: You need a stainless steel bowl that fits over a pot. In this pot, put water but do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, beat eggs in the bowl, then put rest of the ingredients in the bowl and mix well together. Put on top of the pot and stir constantly with a spatula or chopsticks while cooking over medium heat for about 1.5 hours until the kaya is cooked. It should be thick and smooth. This is how Malaysian grandmothers made it. However, it takes too long and too much stirring. Also there is a high chance for eggs to scramble anyways so the other two methods are more practical. Anyways, if they scramble, see the step 2. So I recommend one of the other two methods.

1. Over direct heat version: Beat eggs, then Mix everything well in a pot. Then put over medium heat and stir constantly with chopsticks or a spatula. When it starts to thicken, bring to medium-low, then low. Stir for total 30 minutes or so until it is thick. Now see step 2.

1. Serious Eats-inspired method: less cooking of the eggs = less time stirring. But more time waiting in the middle. Actually next time if I make kaya I will do the second method instead. First put everything in the pot except eggs. Stir well and bring to a boil, stirring about every 30 seconds or so. Simmer over medium heat to reduce for a while, like 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat and cool down to room temperature or a little warmer (you should be able to touch it). Meanwhile beat eggs, then when cool combine everything well. Stir constantly over medium heat until a little thick, then lower the heat and cook until thick enough.

2. If the mixture is lumpy because of scrambled eggs, you can blend until smooth (ugh, must clean blender), or put through fine mesh strainer like I did (ugh, takes forever)… But some people like it lumpy so you don’t have to. When ready, transfer to a jar. When it is room temp (after pushing through the strainer for like half an hour it was already room temp by then) you can cover and refrigerate. When cool it is thicker because of the sugar. Now you can make kaya toast!

Kaya Toast Recipe (Serves 1)

Toast 2 slices of bread. Preferably use Asian style bread which is cut thicker than American, but I didn’t have. BTW, it’s super easy to make bread at home, just mix stuff together, wait some time, and bake. But I don’t have a loaf pan so I buy bread from the store, LOL… I will probably buy one in the future and put a recipe for Asian style bread. After toasting, Cut off the crusts. Actually it’s optional but traditional and better presentation. I dip crusts in kaya to eat, hehe. Try to do quickly so it’s still a little warm by serving time. Then cut each slice into 2 or 3 rectangles, I did 3. Take a cold block of butter from the fridge and shave off 2 or 3 thin slices. Put one slice on half of the toast pieces (the other half will go on top later). Then spread kaya to taste on top of the butter or on the other toast pieces. Put toast pieces together as a sandwich. Enjoy! Serve with hot coffee, or tea, as a breakfast or snack. 🙂

  

Recipe: Mushrooms and Crumbled Tofu Sauté (Vegan Dhingri Dolma)

Note: According to WordPress, this is my 100th post! YAY! 🙂

The Awadhi cuisine is that of the city of Lucknow, which is the capital of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. Many famous restaurant dishes originated in the Awadhi cuisine. One Awadhi dish is called dhingri dolma, which means mushrooms with paneer. This dish is made from button mushrooms, crumbled paneer, and flavorings, sauteed together. Although it doesn’t look very appetizing to me because of crumbled paneer (and it has a very funny name, hehe) , it is really good.

The recipe I am sharing today is a vegan version of Dhingri Dolma. Also, I am including a way to make it slightly Indo-Chinese fusion. It’s quite interesting and you will see. The finished dish is VERY good.

Adapted from: Veg Recipes of India

Ingredients:

200-250 grams white button mushrooms (or cremini / baby portabella), sliced (about 4 slices per mushroom or depending on size)

1 block firm tofu (about 400-500 grams), cubed (size does not matter too much, but too big is not good, so try bite size pieces)

2 tbsp oil (vegan), if non-vegan you may use ghee if you wish

1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes with seeds (optional) (like from Costco) (for Indo-Chinese only)

1/2 tsp caraway seeds (optional) (cumin can also be used) (skip for Indo-Chinese)

1 Indian size onion, equals 1/2 American size onion, finely chopped (optional)

For Indo-Chinese: skip onion, and use 2-3 green onions, finely chopped or sliced into horse ears, separate white (stem) and green (leaf) parts

3-4 cloves garlic plus 1/2 inch ginger, finely minced, or crushed into a paste in a mortar

1/2 inch ginger, finely julienned

(Instead of mincing/crushing ginger-garlic, you can julienne all of ginger and slice thinly garlic if you want, especially for Indo-Chinese)

salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)

for Indo-Chinese: use 1 tsp to 1/2 tbsp soy sauce and decrease the salt to 1/4 tsp

white pepper powder (1/4 tsp) (or black pepper)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder

1/4 tsp garam masala

Red chili powder and garam masala are optional for Indo-Chinese but may also be included. You can also decrease the amounts.

1 roma tomato, diced (if you do not have, you may use 1/2 tbsp tomato paste, or 1 tbsp ketchup instead. Ketchup is not authentic, hehe)

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Directions:

1. Heat a pan or a kadai or a wok, etc.

2. Add oil (or ghee). Add caraway seeds and fry for 5 seconds.

3. If mincing/slicing/julienne garlic-ginger, add now. Stir-fry about 10-15 seconds (5-10 if using green onion). You can leave out the 1/2 inch ginger julienne and add later, this is traditional. However, I do not like the strong flavor in the ginger so I add it now.

4. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, medium high or so until translucent and lightly browned. If using green onion, add white part and saute 15 more seconds. If using ginger-garlic paste, add after 4 minutes and saute one more minute.

5. Add mushrooms and stir-well. Cook over high heat. Keep stir-frying. First they will absorb all oil and be too dry. It will be smoky. Sprinkle 1/2 of the salt. Stir-fry and after a couple minutes a little liquid will be released. Then more, and more. Once a lot of liquid, boil until liquid is evaporated.

6. Add the tofu and tomato. Stir well. Then add the rest of salt, and white pepper, red chili powder, and garam masala. Add soy sauce if using. Stir-fry. As you stir, do not be too gentle. The tofu will crumble. If it doesn’t, it must be very firm. If it is, crumble with spatula on purpose.

7. The tofu will become like scrambled eggs. At this point, do not cook until tomato is a mushy paste. Add the cilantro and green onion greens if using. If not adding ginger julienne at the beginning, add it now. Stir-fry one more minute. Turn off the heat.

8. Taste for salt. Adjust salt and spices to taste. Then enjoy!

9. This tastes really, really good. You can serve with rice, plain or pulao or Indo-Chinese fried rice. You can also serve with flatbread like roti, chapati, naan, etc. Enjoy!

Hopefully the recipe was not too confusing with the Indo-Chinese fusion additions weaved into the recipe 🙂

Enjoy if you try! It’s really good! Below is my picture of the yummy Indo-Chinese fusion version I invented. 😀

  

Recipe: Tang Yuan in Sweet Rice Wine(酒酿汤圆)

To make my favorite Chinese dessert, you need 2 things. First, the sweet wine rice. Please see my previous post to get more information about it and how it is quite simply made at home. You can also find it refrigerated at Chinese grocery stores. Second, the tang yuan. Although almost every modern Chinese person believes tang yuan are extremely time consuming and challenging to make (for some odd reason!), they are actually ridiculously easy to make, like really, really, really easy!! Mix glutinous rice flour with water to make a dough and then form balls with it. Then boil water and add the tang yuan. This is 99999999999 times easier than any western dessert or of any other cuisine to make at home. To see a detailed recipe as well as fillings (which make tang yuan extra yummy, especially black sesame filling!!), please see this post. However, if you need to make it immediately, then fine, you don’t have to make tang yuan at home, because the Chinese supermarket always has it in the frozen section, although it is totally expensive compared to mixing some glutinous rice flour with water. You can buy one package of glutinous rice flour for $1. Then that can make several dozen tang yuan!

Okay, when you have the ingredients, you can start. There’s also some optional ingredients. The first is a flower called osmanthus (桂花 gui hua, pronounced “gway hwah”) that is yellow colored, small, and found in the dried section. It adds a unique fragrance. But actually I have never tasted it before. And I don’t include in my recipe because I like it without the osmanthus too. Maybe someday I will try the osmanthus one. The second is egg. A common addition to sweet rice wine soup is egg flower (蛋花) which is made by beating eggs then adding to boiling soup, stirring with chopsticks, to create a unique and beautiful shape in soup. See my tomato egg drop soup recipe for more information. To western people, the egg in sweet soup may sound weird, but eggs are common in western desserts. Actually I usually do not include egg in the soup. But it is believed to be healthy to include the egg. Sweet rice wine soup with egg flowers is commonly given to pregnant women (the soup has less alcohol in it than a ripe pear, so don’t worry!) too. If you include these ingredients, the soup with wine rice grains, egg flowers, and osmanthus floating around is very beautiful.

Ingredients: Serves 3

1/2 cup sweet wine rice

3 cups water

1 tbsp sugar or to taste

12 black sesame filling tang yuan (or red bean paste filling tang yuan, or peanut, or red bean and black sesame, etc. If using unfilled tang yuan, which are much smaller, use more obviously.)

1 egg, beaten (optional)

Directions:

1. Bring water to a boil.

2. Add tang yuan carefully. Use a spoon to gently stir to prevent sticking. Bring back to a boil.

3. When boiling, lower heat to medium high and simmer a minute.

4. Add wine rice and stir well. Bring back to a boil.

5. If using egg, add beaten egg and stir 3 times quickly with chopsticks.

6. Serve in bowls, 4 tang yuan per person and ladle the soup on top. Add sugar to taste to each bowl. But if everyone doesn’t really have preference on sugar, you can just add at with the wine rice directly into the soup. You can skip sugar for a faintly sweet soup, which my parents prefer.

Sorry that my picture isn’t the best, hehe. Enjoy the delicious food!

  

Recipe: Homemade Sweet Wine Rice(酒酿/醪糟)

Chinese sweet wine rice is a unique Chinese ingredient. It is made from fermenting cooked glutinous rice with yeast until very sweet. If you know, yeast eats the starch in the rice and converts it to sweet sugars. If you let it go longer, the sugar will be converted into alcohol later. But at this point, the alcohol level is very, very low, like the amount found in ripe fruits. I can tell it’s so low since mh face is not red after eating it. Especially as it is served heated, the tiny amount of alcohol inside is evaporated anyways. Anyways, the resulting product is rice with a unique texture due to the starch being eaten and a very sweet taste. This rice is used in some delicious Chinese foods, including my favorite dessert, black sesame filled tang yuan in sweet rice wine soup. It’s SO GOOD. However, I have heard that some non-Chinese don’t like the flavor of it. But many do really like it too. So I recommend you to buy this wine rice from the Chinese grocery store in the open refrigerated section like where the pressed tofu, etc. are kept, and it should be nearby. The storebought one does cost a lot! And so if you like it, it is quite simple to make it yourself at home! I just recommend buying first in case you don’t like the large batch you made at home.

To make this wine rice, you need glutinous rice, also called sweet rice, sticky rice, mochi rice, and other names. These names are all extremely problematic and confusing. First, sweet rice is confusing since it ISN’T sweet (until it’s fermented). Second, sticky rice, that’s fine right? Cause the texture is stickier than normal rice… but wait! Ugh, Americans HAVE to call Japanese rice (used in every Japanese meal and in sushi) sticky rice too! And these two are TOTALLY different. So don’t EVER confuse them! Or else the rice in this recipe will not cook nor become sweet. Third, mochi rice is fine, a literal translation of the Japanese term, もち米… but that only describes the Japanese version used in mochi (short grain). There’s also a Thai version (long grain)! Fourth, glutinous rice, great! No other rice is called glutinous rice, and glutinous means “sticky”! But wait… it sounds like “gluten” that protein that all these health food fads are blaming right now and causing Americans to have wheat-phobia even without Celiac disease! Oh no! Because NO RICE contains this gluten! It’s just called glutinous cause it’s sticky. So honestly there isn’t a good English name for this rice! The only thing that works is the Chinese name 糯米, hehe.

PS. Of these four names, different country cuisines tend to use different names. Glutinous rice is most often used name by Chinese. Sticky rice is common name in Thailand but glutinous is also used. Sweet rice and mochi rice are both used in Japan. Sweet rice is used in Korea. But there are also exceptions.

Anyways, there are two varieties of the glutinous rice. The short grain Japanese version and the long-grain Thai version. The Thai version is cooked by steaming, while the Japanese version is cooked like regular white rice but with less water. I’m not really sure about the one used in China. My mom says that they always used the short version. But traditionally, the rice is steamed. Either variety works in this recipe. I currently use Thai glutinous rice so I’m not sure if the steaming cooks Japanese rice in the same time. Or you can boil it. To buy the different kinds, for Thai rice look for “Product of Thailand”. Japanese glutinous rice is often labeled sweet rice and is grown in the USA, in California. Japan doesn’t export very much rice.

Regular rice is translucent when raw (light can pass through, somewhat clear) while opaque when cooked (totally white). Glutinous rice is opaque when raw (totally white) and translucent when cooked (light can pass through, somewhat clear). That’s one way to see the difference!

If wondering, glutinous rice is also used to make the flour used to make Tang Yuan. The version we use is the Thai one because it is soaked in water, ground very finely, then dried. It says in Chinese on the package that it is soaked but not in English, hehe. The Japanese rice made into mochiko is not soaked. You should use soaked for tang yuan, but mochiko works too. Anyways, see the tang yuan post for how to make them. 🙂

Okay, so any more confusions about rice varieties and such can be asked in the comments. I’m glad to help!

The next ingredient we need is Chinese yeast balls for making rice wines. They are shaped like balls, and made of yeast grown on rice, then dried and powdered. Unfortunately, they come in packs of TONS of yeast balls! I can make hundreds of liters of wine rice with one package! Anyways these are super hard to find. After scanning the aisle like crazy I found it. It’s labeled “RICE CAKE”! XD

And no, the baking yeast does not work in this recipe, you have to use the Chinese yeast ball 😦

That’s actually all the ingredients you need. For equipment, you need a steamer and a cheesecloth. I use a stainless steel steamer set, with a pot on bottom, 2 baskets on top, and a lid. You can also use bamboo steamers with a stainless steel wok or a rack in a pot. But the stainless steel steamer is much easier to use! Just buy one set for $30 or less and you can make steamed buns, and much more. Remember the cheesecloth for steaming the rice! You can also cook Japanese glutinous rice in a rice cooker. If you use Zojirushi or other similar brand, the inside of the pot has the amount of water to add.

You’ll also need a really large bowl, or the traditional wine fermentation jars! A large colander that can fit all the rice is very helpful. And a bowl + rolling pin, or a real mortar and pestle, or just use a coffee grinder.

This recipe is adapted from use real butter. Their wonderful recipe method is the exact same as how it is made in China! It has been made this way for centuries, and my mom told me how my grandma made it in China. So I hope you enjoy 😀

First, use 500 grams of glutinous rice. You can also double it but I halved the original because I am just testing it this time, and making too large a batch isn’t good. Rinse the rice 3 times, and use the water to feed your plants. Rinsing too much gets rid of too much starch and it’s a waste, and it’ll never become clear water since it’s glutinous rice. You can just rinse once if you like! After rinsing, cover with water and soak overnight. If making in the evening, it’s fine to soak in the morning. You can even soak 24 hours too.

After soaking, drain. (BTW if using 1 kg of rice, you can do 2 batches.) Take the steamer basket and line with a cheesecloth. Spread the soaked rice flat on top. Then meanwhile bring water to a boil over high heat in the steamer pot. After boiling, put the basket containing rice on top. Cover and cook for 20 minutes on high.

While steaming, crush one yeast ball in a bowl until a powder. It shouldn’t be too coarse, but it doesn’t have to be way too fine  like flour either. Fine is better than coarse though. By the way, I’m using twice the normal amount of yeast, which is 1 ball to 1 kg rice. But you can’t really use 1/2 ball, and I bought so many yeast balls anyways. Also, using more yeast doesn’t hurt, so it’s fine.

Open (be careful not to burn yourself with steam) and taste the rice to see if it is cooked. It’s cooked when soft to eat, translucent. If cooked, proceed to next step. Otherwise, keep cooking for 5 minutes or longer until cooked.

Now put in a colander that can fit it. Rinse under cold running water until it cools down. It shouldn’t be cold, but not hot either. If hot, the yeast will die! Basically a little warm or just room temperature is fine. The rinsing step is the cool down the rice. It also absorbs more water, which is important. Remember to use clean water. In the USA and UK, etc. tap water is fine. But in other countries, like China, you should boil the water first then cool down. Then drain in the colander. Transfer to the fermentation container, which is the large bowl that can fit the rice. Or the traditional jar.

Tip! No rinsing, no wasting water? It’s more challenging, but okay. Transfer just cooked rice to the fermentation container. Then add 1 cup cold water. Mix with rice spatula until abosorbed. When it’s a little warm. You can see if is dry now. You can add like 1/2 cup more water or so. This is pretty hard to judge. It also heats up the bowl. So I just recommend rinsing.

Once rice is a little warm or room temperature, sprinkle yeast on top. In China you mix with your hands, clean, or in a clean food glove. I prefer to use a rice paddle though. Mix very thoroughly. Then press down on the rice. Lastly make a hole in the middle. (Sorry, I didn’t take pictures! You can check the recipe with pictures on use real butter). Then cover with plastic wrap (or the lid). Make a few small slits in it (if using wrap of course!). Then put in a safe place. I use the oven, turned off. Leave for 3 days. You can check on it every day. If your climate is cold, you can leave the oven light on.

The rice, as fermenting, will release liquid in a day or so. By 3 days, it should be the same level as the rice. When it should be ready, taste a little rice. It should be sweet. It should taste similar to the wine rice you get at the store. For some people, it can be ready in 2 days! For others (colder probably) it may be ready in a week.

I call it wine rice instead of rice wine. Because it is mostly rice, not wine. Only a little liquid.

If it gets mold, throw it away 😦

But you can prevent mold! Make sure you use clean utensils and water. And get NO OIL OR GREASE AT ALL in the rice. This totally ruins the whole process. Remember that!

Okay, when ready, I transfer to a clean jar and refrigerate it. In the fridge, it ferments much slower. But it will still become sour after too long. So use in a week or so. When sour it is not as tasty.

To enjoy! Put a heaping tbsp in a cup or bowl. Add boiling water. About 1/2 cup. Mix and stir. Enjoy!

You can also make my favorite, delicious, amazing, wonderful dessert, 酒酿汤圆 or tang yuan (with black sesame filling!) in sweet rice wine. I will post this recipe next. REALLY look forward to it. Since it’s SO GOOD!! 😀

Note: In Chinese, this wine rice is called 酒酿 and also 醪糟, they mean the same thing.

Picture! This is the rice yeast ball 🙂

 

A preview of the wonderful dessert recipe coming next 🙂

And you may think it looks not pretty. But don’t worry it’s good!

 

Enjoy! 😀